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Understanding the rules of engagement

Posted: 26 Jan 2016 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:development? test equipment? calibration? debugging? rotary BCD?

Some time ago I came up with an article on my frustrations in trying to design a product without any real specifications. Based upon some suggestions from my then editor, Rich Quinell, I formulated several rules of engagement to try and reduce the problems that arose. These are not intended to negate any of the other design practices as recommended by experts like Jack Ganssle, but when you work in a small organisation, things like code reviews are just not possible.

1. Never assume anything. The old saw that it will make an ass out of you and me is actually very close to the truth. Make sure you know what is expected from you, your employer and the different levels reaching the end user. Don't assume that anybody is going to do anything that is implicit.

2. Understand the project. This is not the same as the requirements for the project. Often your project is a small part of a larger enterprise and if you can understand what is going on your efforts will interleave much better. My experience has been that after a while the engineer at working at the lower level actually knows more of what is going on and how everything interrelates that the consultants. If you can get to this position, your credibility and negotiating strength is increased significantly.

3. Get consensus. Taking your own approach without getting agreement from the customers (and I use that term very loosely) will lead to wasted effort and possibly delays in the delivery.

4. Keep the customer informed on progress. It is much better for the customer to be in the loop rather than spring the delay on him the day before delivery. Often this has a knock on effect and your customer will get chewed out by his customer and he will be rather disgruntled.

5. Learn the hardware. If you are designing with new technology, it is a great help to understand it in order to get the best performance possible. Of course there is a learning curve, but any study ahead of the project is bound to factor in your favour.

6. Learn the development environment. The same is true as with #5.

7. Marshall your test equipment. Make sure you have everything you need to test the project. Even sending something for calibration in the middle of a project can delay your progress.

8. Make a plan. Even if it is only for yourself, look at the different steps you have to take to make the project a reality. Include tests and milestones so that you can estimate when you will need input from others, test equipment, and validation of proof on concept.

9. Always verify the collective wisdom. Many times approaches that are suggested are nothing more than scared cows that will delay your project at best and will not work at worst. Ideas and concepts are often gut feel by people who have no knowledge of how anything electrical/electronic/mechanical works (like sales weasels).

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